Enter Stage Right

Whenever someone says “I’m a writer,” they’re not telling you very much. They could be saying “I write short stories,” “I write poems,” or “I write essays for my high school English class.” The fact of the matter is that there is a huge range of writers, from those focusing on short stories to essays to everything in between. One type of writing that tends to go over the heads of most people is script writing. Unless you are a script writer or you’ve been involved in theater, you’ve likely not had much to do with this aspect of writing. Unfortunately, you’re undervaluing a major part of our society. Without scripts, there would be no television shows, no movies, no plays, no musicals. A great deal of your entertainment hinges on scripts and the people who write them.

There is a huge variety in script writing, just as there is in novel writing and poem writing. They can be incredibly formal, with every move charted out. They can also be no more than just a scribbled note of who stands where and who says what. You’ve probably written one of these informal scripts. If you’ve had to give a presentation in class, you’ve scripted your speech. If  you’ve made a Youtube video (that’s not impromptu), you’ve scripted that. Scripting is not hard to do.

However, it is hard write a good script. Script writing is something that anyone can do but not anyone can do well. Some things to consider:

  • One must be doubly aware of the basic mechanics of script writing. The average person rarely reads scripts, so it is unlikely that you will have a great enough familiarity with scripts to be able to write one just by imitation. Therefore, you should take the opportunity to read as many scripts as possible and study the basic format of a script.
  • Know the terms used in script writing. Do you know what a crawl is? Or a swish pan? Do you know how to use an establishing shot? Read up on the terminology used in script writing. Make sure you understand how these things are used in the script and how they translate to the performance.
  • Know the differences between types of scripts. There are different formats for scripting a play as opposed to an episode of Friends or a movie. Filmed and performed scripts are read differently. You have to have a grasp on your story and how it would best be translated into reality. Know the pros and cons of each kind of script.

These points are more important than anything. Before you can get anywhere in script writing, you need to have a solid grounding. Without that, it won’t matter one bit how great your understanding of diction or characterization or story flow.

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